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New Phila, PA, and NJ Laws in 2020

  • Photo by Maddi Bazzocco on Unsplash

With the new year comes a slew of new laws that go into effect in 2020. Let’s take a look at a selection of laws that will impact the lives of Philadelphians, other residents of Pennsylvania, and New Jersey in the upcoming year.

Philadelphia

Locally, Philadelphia City Council passed legislation that will affect workers’ rights, housing, and the use of plastic bags in 2020, among many other wide-ranging topics.

The Fair Workweek Employment Standards ordinance (Bill #180649-A) was passed in December 2018. Initially set to take effect this January, the act is now expected to be implemented in April according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. The act, adopted despite concerns from industry groups, aims to provide more predictable schedules, rest time between shifts, and opportunities for additional hours to certain employees in retail, hospitality, and fast-food establishments. Other labor protections effective this year include the Domestic Worker Bill of Rights (Bill #190607), which requires employers to have written contracts with housekeepers and nannies and establishes a city-run “portable benefits system” to provide paid leave for such workers.  

On the heels of an early 2019 bill that requires good cause for certain evictions (Bill # 170854-A), City Council enacted Bill #180936-A, which amends Philadelphia’s Health Code (see Title 6) to protect tenants from the hazards of lead-based paint. This act, effective October 1, 2020, implements universal lead safe certification in Philadelphia. According to George Donnelly, Attorney at the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, the bill creates a “comprehensive framework” to protect children from “the public health crisis caused by lead paint.” It mandates that all rental properties be certified as lead-free or lead-safe to obtain a rental license. With this bill, Philadelphia became the largest city in the nation to require universal lead safe certification. Philadelphia also became the fifth city in the nation to pass an ordinance providing for access to free legal representation for low-income tenants facing eviction in Landlord-Tenant Court (Bill # 190386). Though this act technically went into effect late last year, 2020 will be a year of momentum for this landmark legislation as the City and various champions of the bill begin planning for its implementation.

Come July, after a 12 year effort, Philadelphia will also see a new ban on certain single-use plastic bags (Bill # 190610-A). Retailers such as supermarkets, convenience stores, clothing stores, restaurants, and delivery services will be prohibited from using plastic bags at the point of sale or for a delivery. According to the director of the Mayor’s Zero Waste and Litter Cabinet, Nic Esposito, the ordiance was enacted in hopes of reducing litter and achieving zero waste by 2035.  

Pennsylvania

On the state level, a plethora of new laws spanning many topics will affect Pennsylvanians in 2020. For example, an election reform bill (Act 77 of 2019) will allow for vote-by-mail up to 50 days before an election, authorize funds for counties to buy new voting systems that create a paper trail, and eliminate one-button, straight-ticket voting.

Two bipartisan bills (Act 114 of 2019 and Act 115 of 2019), known as the second Justice Reinvestment Initiative, will implement criminal justice reforms by changing the way sentencing guidelines are adopted, expanding drug treatment programs, funding rehabilitation for re-entry, supporting county probation programs, and more, with the goal of reducing levels of incarceration and recidivism.

A new PA GI Bill (Act 32 of 2019) allows eligible members of the Pennsylvania National Guard to apply for tuition assistance for themselves and for family members during the 2020-21 academic semesters.

Act 111 of 2019 raises the minimum age to buy tobacco or vaping products to 21, while Act 107 of 2019 increases the number of allowable hunting Sundays across the state.

New Jersey

New Jersey also passed 18 laws that will go into effect in 2020, including changes regarding salary inquiries by potential employers, solitary confinement, smart guns, student loans, and a proposed constitutional amendment on recreational marijuana, which you can read more about here. Governor Murphy also signed two major criminal justice reforms bills at the end of 2019.